10 Jan An exclusive new year chat with the boss: Damien Morley
By Matthew Martino
With a background in photography and publishing, Damien Morley‘s business interests include Morr Publishing and owning one of Europe’s leading model agencies, Girl Management. His vast expertise in creating and monetising online content and telecommunications is invaluable in an increasingly digital age. From concept creation to app development, production and billing, his expertise gives Hereford Films access to a marketing platform unique amongst UK indie production companies.
I had a chat with him to find out more…
1.Tell our readers who is Damien Morley ?
DM: I’m a creative at heart. Unfortunately creative industries were always tough to break into for a kid on a council estate but i believe hard work and determination will always win through.
I was an industrious kid, always grafting, always looking for a car to wash, dog to walk or loading myself up with 2 bags and delivering the free paper. From an early age I learnt the value of a pound earned. These things though, were not a creative outlet. But i would draw, I got a lot of attention for drawing. I’m sure i was rubbish at the time but the praise heaped upon me from teachers and friends was nice so i developed the skill. The better i got, the more pats on the head i got. The problem was, pictures don’t make money so it was always something i did in my spare time which was limited.
I progressed from drawing to graphic design which was a great way to actually earn money from something creative. It was the 90s and computers were becoming accessible but more importantly the internet was a real boost. I taught myself how to make websites and added this skill to my arsenal.
The digital revolution enabled me for the first time to compete with big companies on a level playing field. As a Graphic designer i would be given photographs of models to work in to compositions. Most of the time these photographs were awful and i would spend longer “photoshopping” the picture than i would doing the artwork. It wasn’t long before i decided that i could do a better job of actually taking the picture… That was a learning curve! After a while though i was being offered money from magazines and newspapers simply for the pictures of models.
My pictures ended up on the desk of model agency GIRL Management, the top model agency of its kind in the UK if not Europe with clients including Lucy Pinder and Rhian Sugden and Victoria Silvstedt. They wanted to see me and asked if i would do test shoots with models for them.
My images were selling well but i had plans beyond that of the traditional publishing outlets that were buying them. I could see that the internet had enabled me to go from a kid without a name in a small town to someone with a reasonable international following across social media. I could see what the internet could do for models.
As a photographer i made good friends with every model i worked with. These are a great bunch of people and i truly want to see every one of them succeed. The question everyone asks me is always, “What are the models like?” It’s as though they expect me to say they are arrogant or vapid but i can honestly say, I’ve seen none of that.
Eventually, I bought the agency GIRL Management. I now had no restrictions on access and more importantly there were now no middle men taking money for doing nothing. In turn that meant more money could be passed on to models for their work.
We now create content, publish content and bill for content.2. Where does your passion for publishing and the modelling industry come from ?
DM: My passion for both really comes from wanting to provide a platform for people to shine. It was a lot of graft and there were a lot of setbacks for me. Ive always wanted to help people achieve. Moving in to publishing is also a creative outlet for me to build and develop these platforms.
3.How do you juggle Girl Management, your publishing interests plus your role at Hereford Films?
DM: I have an incredible team. I have to give a special mention to Lana Parker. She helps me across my entire portfolio. She’s amazing. It is tough to find people with the same goals that are company focused. Good people that are driven will often be looking for an opportunity to take what you have built or take the knowledge you’ve given them and set up as a competitor. My team is strong and loyal. I wouldn’t be where i am now if it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t ask for more.
I have GIRL Management, Morr Publishing and now with Hereford Films i can really explore my creativity again. Film has aways been passion of mine and i have been an Executive Producer in the past as well as various other rolls within the film industry. Jonathan Sothcott and I have been friends for a long time and have been talking about doing stuff together for years and Hereford presented the perfect opportunity for that. I’ve been very hands on and I’m loving it. We have some things coming in 2017 that will really surprise people and i feel I’ve not only joined a great company in Hereford Films, but that i add another dimension and fresh way of thinking.
4.In your opinion what has marred or brought a negative outlook to the glamour modelling industry?
DM: I feel it’s only a very small selection of misinformed people that view the modelling industry this way. As an agency we still receive hundreds of applications a day. I understand that we are the oldest and most successful brand in the industry but despite big publishers buckling to campaign pressure, the lobby have not changed the views or opinions of aspiring models. Neither have they dampened the appetite for consumption of the media.
The irony of it is that so many of our models are staunch feminists and believe as i do that no person regardless of gender should dictate to another what profession they should choose.
5.Is there a future for models now with iconic pieces such as Page 3 and Zoo Mag having been discontinued?
DM: Absolutely, and that has long been our a driving factor in our development. Those titles were hugely profitable entities. They were however, small parts of huge conglomerates. When they received bad press, i believe it was easier for them to just close and make the noise go away.
6.What can we expect to see from you in 2017?
DM: 2017 is going to be busy. At Hereford we have a slate of movies that we are producing that i simply can’t talk about yet but that are very different to what other production companies are making. In addition to this Morr Publishing will be launching a mobile app i have developed in Q1 that promises to be very successful. 2016 was a great year for my portfolio, now is the time to turn it up to 11.